Le’Veon Bell (26)
Le’Veon Bell (26)
OAKLAND RAIDERS (2-0) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FedEx Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-5. Oakland hasn’t played in Washington since 2005 thanks to a schedule quirk between the NFC East and AFC West teams. The Redskins outscored the Raiders 58-27 in wins in Oakland in 2009 and 2013. The teams met in Super Bowl XVIII, with the Raiders winning in a blowout, 38-9.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders’ plan seems simple enough — choke off the run and force Kirk Cousins to throw the ball on their terms. Washington’s passing game has yet to take off after the losses of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson and could well be without Jordan Reed. Under those circumstances, the Raiders would hope to have Cousins forced into the air on third-and-long.
Offensively, the Raiders have stressed balance through their first two games, working the clock effectively in the fourth quarter through use of the running game. The more the Raiders don’t have to rely on Carr’s ability to deliver in the fourth quarter, the better they’ll be.
The Redskins ran the ball right at a good defensive front in Los Angeles last week. Other than a shaky third quarter, not even an injury to starter Rob Kelley could slow them down much.
Washington has never sustained games like that under Jay Gruden, but there might be a more concerted effort this season, with Cousins still adjusting to new receivers Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. So far, the chemistry has been noticeably off. But they may have to turn back toward the pass against
Oakland, which presents multiple fronts on a big defensive line and is willing to bring pressure from all over, including safety. Don’t expect 30-plus running plays in this one.
Meanwhile, the Redskins’ defense must deal with Carr and some talented receivers. The real test will be up front. Washington’s defensive line has played much better than expected, with rookie Jonathan Allen making an immediate difference and second-year pro Matt Ioannidis improving. But Oakland’s offensive line is stellar and will provide a tough test for the revamped Redskins defense.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Raiders DE Khalil Mack vs. Redskins RT Morgan Moses. Mack is one of the game’s best pass rushers — though he has just one sack in two games. He’s still made an impact stopping the run and even has a pass defended. Look for Oakland to line him up on the right side. No need to make him tangle with five-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams. Instead, Mack will try to take advantage of a hobbled Moses. Moses earned a nice contract extension this summer for his play the past two seasons — he hasn’t missed a game since 2014. But his ankle injury is a concern.
–Raiders RT Donald Penn vs. Redskins OLB Preston Smith. Smith is off to a nice start after a frustrating second season in which his sacks dropped from eight to 4.5. Smith already has two in two weeks and has looked good setting the edge and helping Washington improve its run defense. He’ll face a tough challenge this week in Penn, a big body at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds and a veteran who plays with an edge and will try to maul the smaller Smith (6-5, 265).
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Redskins CB Josh Norman. Norman suffered an AC sprain vs. the Rams on Sunday and is in a lot of pain. But his presence is critical if the Redskins want to slow Oakland’s offense, led by quarterback Derek Carr. Amari Cooper is a physical receiver at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, but Norman is usually OK with that style of play. Will the shoulder sprain be an issue, though? Norman conceded on Wednesday that he likely won’t be able to punch at the football the way he does when wrapping up a tackle. Few are better at it. If Norman suffers a setback and can’t play, keeping Cooper in check (nine receptions, 95 yards, touchdown) will be near impossible.
FAST FACTS: Raiders QB Derek Carr will make 50th career start. He needs four TD passes to become the fifth QB in NFL history with 90 in his first 50 games. He threw three TD passes and no interceptions last week and has eight TDs and no INTs in his past three games. … Oakland WR Michael Crabtree had 80 receiving yards and three TD catches last week, his second career game with three. He has 20 TD catches since 2015, tied for fourth most in the NFL. … Redskins RB Chris Thompson had 106 scrimmage yards and two TDs in Week 2 and has scored five times (three rushing, two receiving) in his past four games. … Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan had a sack and forced fumble in Week 2. He has 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in his past 11 home games.
PREDICTION: Unless the Redskins can keep the ball away from Carr for much of the game or force some turnovers, they probably don’t have the firepower to beat the Raiders.
ARLINGTON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed a number of special seasons in the past. This one, though, feels even more so.
Green Bay is one win away from the Super Bowl after beating the Dallas Cowboys 34-31 on Mason Crosby’s field goal as time expired Sunday. The Packers are at Atlanta in the NFC Championship next Sunday.
Beating the Cowboys the way they did is something that Aaron Rodgers will treasure … at least until next week.
“This one’s special,” Rodgers said. “More special than we’ve had around here in a while.”
On third down with 12 seconds remaining, Rodgers, scrambling to his left, rifled a 36-yard completion to Jared Cook, who dragged his toes in bounds at the 33-yard line with 3 seconds on the clock. Crosby followed with a game-winner just inside the left upright, after his first attempt right down the middle was waived off after the Cowboys called a timeout right before the snap.
“It’s unreal,” Crosby said. “When we have 35 seconds left on the clock and that offense can move the ball into field-goal range for a manageable kick, that’s just special.”
Green Bay has reached the Super Bowl four times previously, with the last being a win over Pittsburgh to close out the 2010 season. That win came in Arlington in the same stadium the Packers won in Sunday.
Those vibes from six years ago were alive once again.
“This is an outstanding victory for us,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ve obviously won a lot of games in a row and our focus is obviously now on Atlanta and the goal that I think every team has when the season starts.
“We’re an excellent football team and we’re two steps away from achieving greatness.”
The Packers have been a different team, Rodgers especially, during their eight-game winning streak. He never panicked with the game on the line, despite his team giving up an 18-point first-half lead.
“I felt good. I felt calm,” Rodgers said of the last drive. “I was very positive in the huddle, and I felt like we were going to go down and score.”
Atlanta is led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, perhaps the only quarterback around as hot as Rodgers.
“They are very explosive,” Packers linebacker Nick Perry said of the Falcons. “When we look at the film, we gave to make sure we don’t give up those explosive plays. Everything lives off that.”
–Praise for Cowboys
A number of Packers praised the Cowboys on their season, including McCarthy and Rodgers. Rodgers has been particularly impressed by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
“Dak and Zeke had phenomenal seasons, and I think it’s just the beginning for the Cowboys,” Rodgers said. “There’s going to be more battles like this over the years. They should be really proud of what they accomplished.”